Sony Pictures currently has no plans on releasing The Interview in any format. But this is not just about the studio canceling the release of a movie; the current situation in Hollywood has gained international attention. U.S. Intelligence confirmed that the hackers who broke into the studio’s computer network, leaking emails and acquiring confidential and personal data, were the North Koreans. Though NATO applauded Sony for pulling the film’s release for the safety of audiences after the hackers threatened “9/11-style attacks” on any theaters showing the film, celebrities and a majority of moviegoers were displeased with the decision. Many say that this is an attack on our freedom of speech and that it sends a message that the U.S. is willing to let foreign tyrants dictate to and censor us.
In his final press conference of 2014, President Barack Obama talked about the recent controversy, saying that Sony “made a mistake” not releasing James Franco and Seth Rogen‘s political comedy, which involves a plot to assassinate the current North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Meanwhile, the studio has pulled all promotions of the film, trailers, clips, posters, and banners after the hackers made a new threat.
First Obama’s statement:
“Sony is a corporation. It suffered significant damage, threats against some employees. I am sympathetic to the concerns they faced. Having said that, yes I think they made a mistake,”
“That’s not what America is about…I wish they’d spoken to me first. I would have told them, ‘Do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks’.”
It has gotten to a point where the President of the United States has to address a situation created by a political satire starring two people who starred in Pineapple Express. We’ve seen many political satires before, but not one of them has gotten a reaction like this.
“We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States. Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like, or a news report that they don’t like — or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended. That’s not who we are. That’s not what America is about.”
Sony, on the other hand, has responded that they did reach out to the White House, and that the reason they pulled the film is because theater chains made a decision NOT to screen the film on its planned Christmas Day release.
Sony’s full statement in response to the President’s speech is as follows:
Sony Pictures Entertainment is and always has been strongly committed to the First Amendment. For more than three weeks, despite brutal intrusions into our company and our employees’ personal lives, we maintained our focus on one goal: getting the film The Interview released. Free expression should never be suppressed by threats and extortion.
The decision not to move forward with the December 25 theatrical release of The Interview was made as a result of the majority of the nation’s theater owners choosing not to screen the film. This was their decision.
Let us be clear — the only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theaters, after the theater owners declined to show it. Without theaters, we could not release it in the theaters on Christmas Day. We had no choice.
After that decision, we immediately began actively surveying alternatives to enable us to release the movie on a different platform. It is still our hope that anyone who wants to see this movie will get the opportunity to do so.
Despite the studio meeting hackers’ demands, more threats are being made towards Sony. According to CNN, their latest threat reads:
Now we want you never let the movie released, distributed or leaked in any form of, for instance, DVD or piracy. we still have your private and sensitive data” and claims that they will “ensure the security of your data unless you make additional trouble. And we want everything related to the movie, including its trailers, as well as its full version down from any website hosting them immediately.
Now all trailers, clips, and the recent teaser on the Sony Pictures YouTube page have been switched to private video. Posters and banners are also being pulled down. This is no longer just about not releasing a film; these hacks and threats are a direct attack on our freedom of speech, and now we are in a position where we may not be able to see these kinds of films. But if big budget studios aren’t willing to take the risk, this may give room for independent films to roll the dice, because there are more likely to go under the radar.